So much to write about. PAX Prime was last weekend. The fall term of my class, Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction, starts on the 20th. New projects abound—a few of which I can even talk about publically! Nirvana Gates by J.M. McDermott is (pun entirely intended, sorry) deepening the lore of the Fathomless Abyss . . .

But this week I have to set all that aside in favor of one particular labor of love: National Buy a Book Day.

This started out as kind of an off-hand suggestion, in one of my columns for John Ottinger’s Grasping for the Wind. Then the next year it began to show a life all its own, mostly via Twitter (please use the hashtags #buyabookday and #september7). This year, well, we’re taking it to the next level.

Logo by Clifton Hill

Over the course of the last year or so I’ve slowly . . . almost painfully slowly . . . put together a charitable organization: the National Buy a Book Day Foundation. It’s still in its infancy, but it is an official not-for-profit corporation in the state of Washington, and it even has its very own web site, though much of that is still “under construction.”

Best of all, it has a board of directors.

I went out and recruited some like-minded individuals to help me get this thing off the ground:

John Ottinger was there from the beginning, fully embraced the idea, and has been a full-throated champion of the cause from the get-go. He’s on the board.

My former boss,  journeyman editor Peter Archer, brings experience editing and writing both fiction and non-fiction. Peter has had his hands in a broad spectrum of the book business. We’re lucky to have him.

I first encountered Jamie Ford at Wordstock in Portland, Oregon and was immediately covetous of the brilliant title Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which I so wish I’d thought of. I read the book and loved it, and was delighted when Jamie agreed to be a part of the National Buy a Book Day Foundation board of directors, tempering a bit of the SF/fantasy weight.

But am I getting ahead of myself? Do you even know what National Buy a Book Day is?

It’s just this simple:

On September 7th of every year (it just so happens to be this coming Friday!) go to any bookstore and buy any book. Full stop.

A little more detail? Okay.

Any bookstore does include e-retailers like Amazon.

Any book does include e-books.

Any book means any category, fiction or non-fiction, in any genre, by any author.

Any bookstore includes used bookstores, and any book includes used books.

Yes, you can buy a book from your local library, if they (like mine) also sell books.

The idea is: you have a little money at the beginning of the day on Friday, and by the end of the day you have a little less money, plus one book.

Note that I have not, nor will I, assign some minimum dollar value. Found a great book you really want for fifty cents? That counts.

Got your eye on that super-premium coffee table book for $200? That counts, too.

And anything in between is perfectly fine.

Of course, if you really want to realize the biggest “bang for you buck” and support the broadest spectrum of the book business, you should go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore (they need the help the most, believe me) and buy a new book by a living author at full price. This means everyone in the book business benefits the most: the retailers (and people who work there—who are not millionaires by any stretch of the imagination) get the most money from that one book that they can (which still isn’t much), the publisher (who is not the limitless source of massive profits you may think it is) realizes the full fruits of their labors (as do all the people who work to get that book printed, bound, boxed up, and sent to that store, also none of whom are millionaires), and the living author gets his or her full royalty (which in most cases is less than either the bookseller or the publisher is making, believe it or not).

Why am I doing this?

Because I love books, and I love and admire and respect the people who write them, publish them, sell them, and read them. Wherever you may be on that list—and like me, you may inhabit more than one of those zones—this is your day.



—Philip Athans



About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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1 Response to BUY A BOOK ON FRIDAY

  1. Thanks for including used books! 🙂 In our exurban area, we are basically the only alternative to Barnes and Noble, and we only sell used books. We are trying to promote the love of reading, whether its new or used, e-books or analog, non-fiction or fiction. But sometimes it feels like an uphill battle! 🙂 Great work, and we’ll look forward to celebrating again next year!

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